Beyond More Jews Doing Jewish: Clarifying the Goals of Informal Jewish Education

Journal of Jewish Education 03/2007; 73:5-23. DOI: 10.1080/15244110601175186

ABSTRACT Why has it been so difficult to define the goals of Jewish informal education? Often informal educators define their work in terms of the goals of Jewish socialization. Those terms have worked to attract funders' support, but also limited the educational creativity of this field. This article argues for a dual defining of goals: socialization and educational. Defining the educational goals leads to considering the works of Cremin, Peters, and Csikszentmihalyi who disentangle the enterprise of education from the broader sweep of socialization. Viewed apart from its socializing functions, informal Jewish education becomes the moment for going deeper and experiencing our Judaism in its full creative potential. A camp music program is offered as an example of how these two goals can operate together, but lead in distinct directions.

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    ABSTRACT: How do Jewish residential summer camps provide campers and staff with opportunities to learn and grow as Jews? Sales and Saxe (2004)23. Sales , A. L. and Saxe , L. 2004. “How goodly are thy tents”: Summer camps as Jewish socializing experiences”. Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press. View all references have viewed this growth through the lens of their socialization theory. This article asks: Can there be more to the camp experience than being socialized into the norms and values of a well-aligned Jewish environment? Based on a case study of the drama program in Camp Ramah in Wisconsin, the author proposes viewing certain camp experiences through the lens of optimal Jewish experiences (Csikszentmihalyi, 19906. Csikszentmihalyi , M. 1990. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience, New York, NY: Harper Collins. View all references). These are moments when individuals—often operating in a group context—rise to the challenge of new Jewish learning and succeed to present their accomplishments before appreciative audiences. The conditions that give rise to these optimal Jewish experiences are explored and suggestions are offered for how other camp leaders can create these conditions in their camps.
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